As world leaders flock to Jerusalem, Palestinians feel let down

With many foreign leaders headed to Israel for this week’s World Holocaust Forum, few plan to meet with Mahmoud Abbas

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas arrives to meet with Jordan's King Abdullah in Amman, last year. (photo credit: KHALIL MARZAAWI/REUTERS)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas arrives to meet with Jordan's King Abdullah in Amman, last year.
As dozens of world leaders converge on Israel this week for the Fifth World Holocaust Forum 2020, some Palestinians are frustrated that only a few of these leaders will be visiting the Palestinian territories for a one-on-one meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Among those scheduled to attend the Holocaust forum are US Vice President Mike Pence and the presidents of Russia, Germany, France, Italy and Austria.
Mustafa Barghuthi, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative, a political party, told The Media Line that the international community should do more than pay "lip service" to help the Palestinians.
"I want to ask a question of all those leaders who are coming to visit Israel in solidarity with Israel and the memory of the Holocaust: Why don’t they exercise pressure on Israel? What can they do to stop the Israeli violations, starting with the torturing of Palestinian prisoners, the killing of people without accountability and the unprecedented level of settlement expansion?"
The Palestinians have boycotted Washington since US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital at the end of 2017. Abbas has instead called on the international community to play a larger role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He plans to discuss this with the leaders who meet with him.
"What do these states want to do about the fact that they support the two-state solution although Israel is killing that option? What can they do in terms of active measures rather than just statements?” Barghuthi asked.
Abbas has stated that he no longer considers Washington the sole mediator in the conflict. He has called for an internationally backed peace conference to kickstart the stalled negotiations.
Hasan Awwad, a Middle East expert at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut, told The Media Line he believes the Palestinian people have lost faith in the international community.
"There is no trust in the international community within the people. Abbas wants to stay in power. He wants more aid and international support to run the PA without sharing power nor [holding an] election. His regional and international power is declining,” Awwad said.
Abbas has long sought international support. Back at the beginning of his presidency, in 2005, he began to galvanize the international community for the Palestinian cause, and for a time, he gained momentum.
But Khalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, says that in recent years, Abbas’s popularity has declined and his approach has lost support.
"Most Palestinians believe this internationalization of the conflict has been a failure. In a sense, it hasn’t delivered. It didn’t influence the Israeli calculus in any effective way to stop settlements, or contribute to ending the Israeli occupation," he told The Media Line.
Abdul Majeed Swailem, a professor of regional studies at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, told The Media Line that global powers should take a stand.
“Israel behaves with impunity, and they [the Israelis] should be held accountable,” he said.
"What the Palestinian Authority wants from the international community is for it to exercise its responsibilities and put pressure on Israel,” he added. “Pressure, so that Israel does not continue to take further steps to destroy the two-state solution."
Vice President Pence has no plans to meet with Palestinian officials. The last time he was in the region, Palestinians shunned him.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emanuel Macron, Australian Governor-General David Hurley and the heir apparent to the British throne, Prince Charles, will be meeting with Abbas.
Putin has in the past offered to host a meeting between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. In January 2017, a summit on the conflict was held in Paris, but neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians were invited.
At the time, the Palestinians welcomed the effort while Israel rejected it.
The last direct talks between the two sides, sponsored by then-US secretary of state John Kerry, fell apart in 2014.
Barghuthi gave a scathing critique of foreign powers, saying their credibility is on the line.
"Palestinians are already disappointed in the international community,” he said. “But the question now… [is] how to challenge the international community and put facts in front of it and challenge it to take actions consistent with its claims of supporting democracy, human rights and the right to self-determination….”